February 2014
February 03, 2014

A win-win for Rochester School for the Deaf

Author: By Kara Smith
Source: NYSUT United

After years of scheduling parent-teacher conferences solely during non-school hours, teachers at the Rochester School for the Deaf grew concerned because parent participation was low.

Educators felt school-day meetings would boost attendance. The problem was administrators "didn't want to lose student instruction time to conferences, which we understood," said Julie Shahin, president of the Rochester School for the Deaf United Faculty Association (RSDUFA).

The solution? A unique, union-negotiated pilot program that gives teachers the daytime parent conferences they sought, without sacrificing student instruction time. "The union and faculty planned activities for students during the day to free up teachers to meet with parents," said Shahin.

Pam McInerney, RSDUFA secretary, was part of a committee that developed the program. "A mix of teaching assistants, teachers who didn't have conferences and specials teachers ran activities on character education and other topics," she said. "It was called an interdisciplinary day by the administration."

With huge parent turnout and fun activities for students, including visits from the city police department's K-9 unit, the day was a success. Plans are already under way for a second event in March for spring parent conferences.

Feedback from administrators was positive. "They were thrilled with the turnout. We'd never had so many parents attend before," said Shahin.

"This is a wonderful example of how locals can work collaboratively with their administration to benefit students, parents and educators," said Maria Neira, NYSUT vice president. "When educators work together to find solutions, everyone wins."